Hormone changes as an adult. The menstrual cycle is one of the most common acne triggers. Acne lesions tend to form a few days before the cycle begins and go away after the cycle is completed. Other hormone changes, such as pregnancy and menopause, improve acne in some women. But some women have worse acne during these times. Stopping use of birth control pills can play a role as well.
2. You're OD'ing on spot treatments. Overusing topical salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulphur over-the-counter treatments can dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil and possibly blemishes. Those ingredients can actually make the appearance of your pimples look worse, since the active ingredients can slightly burn the top layer of your skin if used too often, making the pimple appear even redder and harder to conceal than if you had just left it alone. (Tip via Samantha Wright, a licensed aesthetician and Skinovator at the Dangene Institute.)
Scars (permanent): People who get acne cysts and nodules often see scars when the acne clears. You can prevent these scars. Be sure to see a dermatologist for treatment if you get acne early — between 8 and 12 years old. If someone in your family had acne cysts and nodules, you also should see a dermatologist if you get acne. Treating acne before cysts and nodules appear can prevent scars.

The bad news: There's no secret ingredient or miracle gadget that makes scars totally disappear. Don't get discouraged, though. A lot of what you think is acne scarring is really just hyperpigmentation or erythema (brown or red spots) rather than an actual change in the texture of the skin. Plus, there's a bevy of gels, creams, and treatments that can bring that discoloration down. We asked top dermatologists to recommend the most effective of the bunch.
When it comes to skin care, we're not usually ones for hard and fast rules. Everyone has unique skin types, skin tones, lifestyles, and genetic histories that make it impossible to have a single piece of one-size-fits-all advice. It can take years — and dozens of trips to the dermatologist — to discover how to treat acne effectively on your unique skin. But here at Teen Vogue, we've pretty much made it our life mission to figure out the best tips from the pros to point you in the right direction. They've seen it all and won't recommend it unless it's backed up by experience and science,.
Bacteria. Excess sebum clogs the openings to hair follicles -- especially those on the face, neck, chest, and back. Bacteria grow in these clogged follicles. This makes blackheads or whiteheads, also known as ''comedones,'' form on the skin's surface. Sometimes, this clogging causes the follicle wall to break under the pressure of this buildup. When this happens, sebum leaks into nearby tissues and forms a pustule or a papule -- this is called inflammatory acne. Larger, tender pustules are called nodules.

There are simple things you can do on your own to help prevent adult acne and keep it from getting worse. First, wash your skin once or twice a day with a non-drying, non-comedogenic cleanser that won't clog your pores. Look for cosmetic products labeled oil-free, non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic (unlikely to cause acne breakouts). In addition, avoid heavy skin creams or hair products which may aggravate your skin condition.
Many over-the-counter lotions and creams containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are available to help prevent acne and clear it up at the same time. You can experiment with these to see which helps. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly — don't use more than you're supposed to at one time (your skin may get too dried out and feel and look worse) and follow any label directions about allergy testing.
Rolling scars can look like little saucers, giving the skin a wavy texture. Lasers that resurface the skin are Dr. Karolak's top treatment pick for this type of scar, and Dr. Sobel agrees. "Many scars can be improved with lasers such as the matrix CO2, which remove the outer layers of skin, burning away the scar tissue and stimulate new collagen production," he says. "Non-ablative lasers such as the Fraxel can help activate the production of collagen without damaging the surface of the skin." Keep in mind, that these laser treatments can take a bit of recovery time and require multiple treatments to see results. For a quicker solution, your dermatologist can plump the bowl-like scar with fillers like Juvederm, Restylane, or Bellafill.
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Skin-care geeks rejoiced when the formerly Rx-only Differin gel became available over the counter, in 2016. A prescription-strength retinoid, Differin also affects cell turnover faster than OTC retinols to prevent the formation of new acne. Avram recommends it for those dealing with a lot of small pimples and only the occasional monster cyst. Because Nagler says retinoids “encouraging collagen remodeling,” a well-tolerated formula like Differin can also reduce the appearance of deeper scars.
All three dermatologists suggested that the best solution for boxcar or rolling scars are in-office procedures. Dr. Day, for instance, suggestedEndyMed Intensif, which uses microneedle radio frequency to remodel the skin by delivering heat into the skin to stimulate collagen and elastin production. For at-home treatments, however, Dr. Day turns to Olay's DIY microdermabrasion kit. It comes with both a foam head and crystal polisher, which claims to exfoliate 7 times better than a typical scrub and thoroughly cleanses the face to prevent future breakouts.
When it comes to acne scars — especially difficult to treat indented or raised ones — the best offense is a good defense. If you’re still struggling with active acne and want to avoid future scarring, Avram likes this drugstore-staple Neutrogena wash because it contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that he says “exfoliates the skin, softens the appearance of the acne itself, and has some antibacterial properties.”
Strat beauty editor Rio Viera-Newton mentioned this paraben- and fragrance-free concealer in her post on makeup for broken-out skin. “This has helped me conceal even the worst of the worst,” she wrote. Designed for buildable coverage, it will also work on masking those acne marks until they gradually fade away, and the gentle formula means it won’t cause additional irritation.
Doctors infrequently prescribe isotretinoin for severe and resistant rosacea. Often physicians prescribe it after multiple other therapies have been tried for some time and have failed. Patients take a daily capsule of istotretinoin for four to six months. Typically, isotretinoin is most commonly used in the treatment of severe, common acne called acne vulgaris. Close physician monitoring and blood testing are necessary while on isotretinoin. Generally, at least two forms of birth control are required for females using this medication, as pregnancy is absolutely contraindicated while on isotretinoin.

When it comes to acne scars — especially difficult to treat indented or raised ones — the best offense is a good defense. If you’re still struggling with active acne and want to avoid future scarring, Avram likes this drugstore-staple Neutrogena wash because it contains salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that he says “exfoliates the skin, softens the appearance of the acne itself, and has some antibacterial properties.”
Those big, painful zits will leave a scar if you pick and prod at them—"the only way to reduce it quickly is to drain it, and that's not a DIY deal," Dr. Schultz warns. The reason they're painful is because quick expansion stretches the nerves. "Drinking good red wine is often helpful [to numb the pain]," he jokes. Take Advil, apply a warm or cold compress (whichever feels better to you), and go see your derm. "Cortisone shots are the true 'spot treatments' for painful cystic acne lesions," Dr. Tzu says.

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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